Taiwan’s automotive electronics industry is seeing steady growth as companies focus on selling to OEMs and the growing market in mainland China. Taiwanese suppliers are being aided by government programs, though without the financial incentives granted to some companies in China.
Taiwan’s automotive electronics output rose 11.3% in 2014, hitting roughly $4.7 billion U.S. dollars, according to the Industrial Technology Research Institute. Increased emphasis on key growth markets like China and electric vehicles were focal areas for government and corporate representatives at the recent Autotronics show, held in conjunction with four exhibitions: Taipei Ampa, EV Taiwan, Tuning & Car Care Taiwan, and Motorcycle Taiwan. Government spokesmen note that EVs are still new enough that Taiwanese suppliers can get in on the ground floor.
“The electric vehicle is one of the most important industries,” said David Hsu, Deputy Director General of Taiwan’s Bureau of Foreign Trade. “Government is helping companies transform themselves. We want to help Taiwanese companies gain a stronger foothold in the EV market.”
While they’re laying the groundwork for EVs, many vendors at the exhibitions were more public about two target markets, expanding from aftermarket to OEM business and getting a foothold in China. Many Taiwanese automotive electronics suppliers have established production facilities in mainland China to trim costs and tap local markets.
“Labor costs and transportation issues were part of the reason we built a plant in China, but the main factor is the potential for a lot of growth,” said Gary Lin, Assistant Vice President at Eagle Eyes Traffic Industrial. “In the future there will be huge demand in mainland China.”
Government agencies are playing a significant role in helping many companies expand their exports. One example is the Taiwan Autotronics Collaboration Alliance (TACA), formed in 2012 to help companies finesse the challenges poised by overseas sales. The organization also helps manufacturers team up to provide broader solutions.
“TACA helps us go overseas; last year they helped us get business in Malaysia and with Toyota in Indonesia,” said Charlie Yu, Sales Director at Photic Electronics Co. “They promote joint ventures. Taiwanese companies can partner to supply all types of products so the OEMs know we’re working together on both the technical and business sides.”
Many manufacturers are focusing on emerging technologies where they can compete with more-established foreign competitors. For example, LEDs now have only a small share of the exterior lighting market, but that’s expected to change considerably as prices decline. Taiwanese manufacturers are striving to be part of that growth by selling directly to automakers.
“OEMs are currently 27-28% of our business, I want to get that to 50-50 by 2018,” said Carlos Ting, Senior Vice President, Sales, at Tyc Brother Industrial Co. “LEDs are around 20% of our business now. If we achieve that 50-50 goal, LEDs will account for about 75% of our business.”
Ting noted that the company just won a contract in China from Jaguar Land Rover to supply LED lamps. While the Taiwanese government is helping companies expand internationally, it’s not as aggressive as mainland China’s politicians. That’s making it tougher for Taiwanese suppliers to match costs with suppliers based in mainland China.
“Our most important challenge is low pricing,” Lin said. “Chinese competitors get rebates from the government. That’s a challenge for us; we don’t get any money from the Taiwanese government.”